Hard to believe, but 'GoodFellas' wasn't the instant classic it seems like today.

Before its release 20 years ago, on Sept. 19, 1990, Martin Scorsese's mob epic screened disastrously for test audiences. Some viewers walked out after the intense first 10 minutes, while some who remained were irritated by the rapid, cocaine-addict's-eye-view editing of the long climactic sequence of Henry Hill's (Ray Liotta) last day as a mobster. The ratings board found the film too bloody even for an R rating until Scorsese trimmed 10 shots.

20 years later, however, 'GoodFellas' is acknowledged as a masterpiece, arguably the best film of both the '90s and Scorsese's legendary career. Its influence over other movies and TV shows, and not just in the crime genre, is hard to overstate. Yet watching it again today, it still feels fresh, a sustained, 2-1/2 hour rush of outlaw energy. Here's why 'GoodFellas' has been so important over the last two decades, and why it still retains the force of that first explosive test screening.
Based on 18 critics

An Irish-Italian hood (Ray Liotta) joins the 1950s New York Mafia. Read More